Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Business Trip – Orange County (SNA) to Pasco / Tri-Cities (PSC) via Salt Lake City (SLC) in Delta Economy

Delta Airbus 319
Seat:  11D
Cabin:  Economy
Date:  01/24/12
Scheduled Departure:  4:35pm
Actual Departure:  4:29pm
Scheduled Arrival:  7:25pm
Actual Arrival:  7:23pm

I had a plan arriving at John Wayne Airport to park my car in the B parking structure so that I could access it easily on my United return the following night.  The airport has recently invested a fair amount of money in creating a parking management system that displays the number of spaces available on each level of the structures.  According to that sign, 15 spaces were left in the structure which would work for me.  Unfortunately, no spaces were actually available in the structure so I had to circle around again and find other parking.  I ultimately found parking in the A structure which just means a long walk late at night back to my car. 

Security was a breeze in the afternoon with only 3 people in front of me in line.  The Delta gate was a short walk past the checkpoint and I was able to sit down, hit up the free wifi, and get some work done before boarding.  I rarely fly Delta as I have never been a fan of the airline or their destination.  For a while I was flying quite a few of their regional jets in and out of Cincinnati for work which meant my long legs were always cramped and pushing into the seat in front.  This mainline flight should be decent though. 

The boarding area was relatively empty which indicated a very light load on the flight.  Boarding was quick and we all were seated before our scheduled departure time with perhaps a third of seats occupied.  Luckily for me, I was the only one in my three right side seats so I scooted over to the middle and spread out.  We waited a while after pushback before taxiing to the runway as other airplanes were heading out as well.  One of the drawbacks of SNA is that airplane traffic builds up quickly.  Once on the runway, the engines ramped up to full speed while the brakes remained on and then we were off and in the air on the slightly more than normal incline typical of SNA flights. 

The first part of the flight was a little bumpy but once we smoothed out drink service began.  Distribution of beverages was speedy given the light passenger load.  We also received a small packet of peanuts which I am not used to on my usual United flights.  I was able to get a good bit of work on my presentation before we started our decent about an hour and twenty minutes after takeoff.  The plane was equipped with GoGo wireless internet, however, I didn’t feel the charge to use it was worth it given the short duration of the flight.  

The pilots performed a smooth landing and we reached the gate a few minutes early.  My connecting time in SLC was scheduled for 40 minutes which worried me slightly but Delta.com indicated that my flight to Pasco was going to be out of the next gate.  A quick check of the airport monitors after deplaning changed my planning.  The gate had been switched from the C concourse to the B concourse and was showing a half-hour delay. 

The delay would give me enough time to grab something to eat and walk to the other gate.  One of my favored chain food outlets in airport is the Wolfgang Puck Express where I get some butternut squash soup or a chicken ceasar salad, pricey as most things in airports.  When I went up to order my salad I was informed that they didn’t have lettuce….  How do you run out of lettuce?  I settled for a bagel sandwich place on the B concourse which may have been a healthier option anyway.  The toasted bagel did make the sandwich enjoyable. 

I booted up my computer once settled at gate B13 and was waiting for boarding.  About the time we were supposed to board, the gate agents made an announcement about why our flight was delayed.  The crew scheduled to be on our plane was stuck in Reno on their delayed flight.  Delta operations (rather SkyWest operations since it is an RJ flight) called in a new crew which was supposed to be at the gate within another 10 minutes.  10 minutes later, another announcement indicated that we may be delayed by up to an hour because operations called the cabin crew, but not a pilot until much later.  I would think that would be something important to do at the same time as the rest of the crew.  So now we have to wait for the original pilot to arrive on the Reno flight and get us to Pasco.  We were given the ok to board the plane at 8:45pm before the pilot even landed.  I will give props to Delta for keeping everyone informed even though the news wasn’t the greatest. 

Delta Canadair RJ900
Seat:  10B
Cabin:  Economy
Date:  01/24/12
Scheduled Departure:  8:02pm
Actual Departure:  9:10pm
Scheduled Arrival:  8:48pm
Actual Arrival:  10:09pm

The CRJ filled up fast with passengers as we were all in a hurry to get to Pasco.  The plane had about 15 open seats and unfortunately, I was not next to one of them.  I usually prefer window seats as I won’t be disturbed by passengers climbing over me but on regional jets I prefer the aisle seat.  It allows me to stretch and lean out into the aisle for more room and more workspace – until the drink cart rolls by.  Delta has first class on this regional jet with 12 seats in a 1-2 configuration.  The rest of the economy cabin has decent seat pitch in the 2-2 configuration which surprised me.  My previous commuter flights on Delta had very little legroom.  My seat had nearly as much space as economy plus on United branded regional jets. 

The captain eventually appeared at the cabin door and completed his safety checks before we pushed back.  Departure was delayed even more as we had to de-ice the wings.  It was a cold night, no snow or rain though.  We were number one for departure and then airborne.  The crew were all nice and cheery even though they were called in from reserve.  They were also sincerely apologetic for the delay we experience.  Apparently it was a mechanical issue on the inbound Reno aircraft where they were leaking fuel.  Not a good thing. 

The flight time was scheduled for one hour and twenty three minutes wheels up to wheels down.  Strong headwinds added a bit more to that time and I just hope we can land by 10pm so I can get to my hotel.  Drink service was quick although the cart and the attendants kept bumping into my shoulders. 

The approach to the airport was bumpy due to some pretty gusty winds.  The plane rolled around a bit before getting closer to the ground and a good landing by the pilots.  Snow was still on the ground from the recent “snowmagedon” which hit the Pacific Northwest and it was cold outside.  As we were taxiing to the gate I called my hotel, the Red Lion Richland to arrange the courtesy shuttle.  They actually didn’t have a shuttle but they hired a taxi for me instead. 

The Pasco airport is another small town airport that has 3 or four gates at most.  The waiting area could maybe seat 60 people.  It only took me a couple minutes to get from the gate to the curb outside where the taxi was waiting for me.  At least the timing was perfect for my ride.  More on my experience at the Red Lion Hanford House Richland, WA to come. 

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